There's no need to navigate Google Play without direction. We've gone ahead and arranged all the best new and newly updated apps and games right here, just like every week. Yes, this is the Google Play App Roundup. Just click on the links to head right to Google Play.
This week news gets pretty, towers get built, and logs get split.
Once upon a time, Digg was the heart and soul of the social web. If you wanted to get something noticed by real human beings online, you got it to the front page of Digg. Things didn't go well for Digg after a series of questionable redesigns, and the site was eventually sold off in pieces. The name and URL was acquired by Betaworks, which quickly turned around a new Digg--a socially inspired news site with editorial direction. It's actually pretty good, and now there is finally an Android app for the new Digg. Bonus: it looks lovely.
Digg is no longer centered around user-submitted content, but instead uses social news and information to surface cool stuff, which is filtered by editors. You really do find a lot of cool, high-quality content on Digg these days. However, that's not all this app does. The Top Stories section is the regular Digg, but there is also support for Digg Reader.
When Google announced that Reader was going away, Digg was one of the brands that stepped up and built a replacement RSS aggregation service. Digg Reader is seamlessly integrated with the Digg app. You can add feeds manually in the app, or use the Digg website to import your Google Takeout data.
The app follows the Holo guidelines reasonably well. There is an action bar up top, the hamburger navigation panel on the left, and the overall vibe is nice and clean. The navigation panel can be used to switch between the regular Digg Top Stories list, and your personal RSS feeds. Digg is a mostly white app, which happens to fit in well with the new Android Halo Light look. The only thing I'm really missing is a pull-to-refresh interaction.
In the Top Stories interface, you can still dig stories you like, and also share to any app that plugs into the Android sharing menu.
If you haven't investigated Digg since the relaunch last year, this is maybe a good opportunity. The app is great, and stands in for the now defunct Google Reader.
It seems like every new tower defense game is pushing some kind of gimmick, but it's easy to see why. There are a lot of similar games, and many players are tired of the genre. It's not that Siegecraft Defender doesn't have anything special, but it's actually a little refreshing to see a game that isn't ashamed to be a pure tower defense title.
The setup in this game is straightforward. On one side of your map is the castle, where you are keeping your sheep safe. From the other end of the map, the lizards march toward you. See, they want to eat your sheep, which is what you're trying to prevent. You do that by creating a maze of towers on a beautiful 3D landscape.
The gameplay is very reminiscent of Fieldrunners, but perhaps a little more open -- less static. You are presented in each level with an open map with creeps pouring in from multiple points, The only way to do enough damage is to strategically place towers to create a maze for the creeps. They'll always take the shortest route, so make it longer. Siegecraft Defender helpfully shows you the path ground and air forces are taking with animated walking/flying animations every few seconds.
Your towers are down in the lower right. To place one, just drag it onto the map. You've got the usual assortment of long-range slower weapons like the catapult, faster workhorse towers like the ballista, and various area of effect options like the pot of lava. As the game continues, you unlock 15 towers including various magic towers and dragon roosts. Each tower has the customary three upgrade tiers.
In addition to the typical, but solid single player, there is an interesting multiplayer mode. I should mention up front that the online component isn't done yet -- all we have currently is local pass-and-play. You probably don't want to do this, but online mode is coming soon. When it arrives, you can go up against multiple opponents in asynchronous games. Each player competes with the others to capture land and expand their empire. A second turn then has you defending against attacks. Only by taking over your opponents' lands can you be victorious.
The graphics are excellent in Siegecraft Defender, and you can really enjoy them with the full 3D controls. You are able to zoom way in and see the detail on the towers, and the creeps. dragging side to side with two fingers also rotates the camera. I really like that you can watch the action from any angle.
The game has different graphical quality settings. The low end option looks pretty simple -- flat textures, no particle effects, and limited lighting. The highest should be fine on most new devices. It looks great. Siegecraft Defender bills itself as the "most beautiful" tower defense game ever. Well, I don't know about that, but it looks very good.
At $3.99, it's somewhat expensive. However, there are no in-app purchases. You buy this game, and all the content is yours. it's probably worth the price now, and it'll definitely be there when the online component is done.
You may be familiar with a little game called Fruit Ninja. It was hot a few years back, but has since been pushed aside as new, more innovative games have arrived on mobile devices. Jack Lumber is basically a new take on Fruit Ninja. It has a lot more going on as far as the gameplay goes, though.
Each stage in Jack Lumber presents you with a series of challenges consisting of logs flying through the air. Confused? Understandable. A few logs will fly onto the screen from one or more directions, and they're moving at a pretty good clip. When you press the screen, time slows down, allowing you to draw a line through the logs to split them. You only have a few seconds to clear all of them. You get points based on how quickly and how well you clear the screen. Each level consists of multiple rounds, with a star rating at the end.
It's not just about slicing through the logs at any angle, a la Fruit Ninja. Each log has to be split along its length, and not all of them are straight. Some are curved, and others are zigzags. You will even encounter t-shaped logs that have to be split along two different axes. I feel like this style of gameplay is already really compelling, but it gets even more challenging as the levels go on. The more advanced levels add in logs that can only be split traveling with the grain, as indicated by arrows. You may also have to pass through a long multiple times to split it.
The timing for beginning your swing is also incredibly important. The longs will be spinning when they fly up into view, and you want the slow-motion to start when they're in a convenient arrangement. However, some logs are going to be spinning too fast to see, so you'll have to take your chances.
The graphics are simple, but have a fun look. The backgrounds are simple, almost watercolor affairs, and the logs are cartoonish. Maybe it's the abundance of logs, but I'm getting a Ren and Stimpy vibe from this game. The campy word-laden explosions when you split logs are also a fun little extra.
You earn in-game currency from each level, which can be spent on items that undo mistakes so you can pass the tougher stages. There are also "beards" available that increase the game difficulty for better replayability. There are no in-app purchases right now, and Jack Lumber is only $1.99. Definitely worth it.